Marriage Lessons: Year 2

Last week, Andrew and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary; we don't limit ourselves to a single day of celebration, though. All of September is deemed "Love Month"; in addition to being married in September, we had two dating stretches pre-marriage, both of which began in September. We lovingly joke about the fact that we seem to like each other the most this time of year, so the entire month is marked by celebration, and obviously mountains of yummy food. 

Both Andrew and I are fond of reflecting and projecting--typical Type A tendencies, I know. We do this on a daily basis every night before we go to sleep, asking one another a series of questions about the closing day, and the day to come. On a larger scale, we like to set aside some time to reflect on seasons of life, whether it be individual reflection on birthdays, or mutual reflections and projections on annual milestones. Our anniversary is one such milestones, and as we did last September, we took some time last week to think about what has happened over the last year--how we've grown, how life has changed us, and where we want to go next. 

It’s challenging to write this post, partially because I can’t get “Seasons of Love” out of my head; literally, the opening lines are on a permanent loop, and I am seriously considering smashing something. As unwilling as I am to admit it, the lyrics are relevant. How can I look back over an entire year of my marriage and summarize is succinctly? How do I define something so complex, and so vast?

Year 1 was easy to pin down—everything outside our marriage went to hell. So in our brand-new, inexperienced marriage, we learned to communicate while suffering, and how to do life together in survival mode. On our 1st anniversary, I came out with a nice little bulleted list of lessons learned, because the fruit of that year was scarce, but sweet. I clung to the victories, to the moments where something good happened, and we moved forward together as husband and wife—mostly because those victories were absent in every other area of our lives.

Year 2 has been completely different; hallelujah! It hasn’t been perfect, but we can point to a horde of happy memories, and unlike Year 1, most days were not spent crying on the couch and/or binge-watching Netflix. We had steady income most of the year, along with health insurance, and we cultivated enough stability in our lives to sell our condo and buy a house. I get to work in a beautiful office now, instead of working at the dining room table amongst our bills and grocery ads.

But that’s all surface-level observation--basic facts about what happened this year. Yes, we bought a house. Yes, we cried less. Yes, we had more fun and got to celebrate some positive change in our lives, finally. But what did we learn? How are we different than we were a year ago? What is the chapter title for our second year? The answers are much less polished and presentable than they were last year, because we’ve developed a greater understanding of the complexity and ambiguity of life together—Year 2 has presented us with a lot of gray, and a lot of waiting. Nonetheless, a few big ideas have surfaced.

1. We are limited in what we can do for each other. 

It would be difficult to estimate how much time I spent beating myself up over the last year for being an inadequate spouse. I love Andrew so much, and want so much more for him than he wants for himself; but it isn’t my place to nag, or push him forward into a season he’s not ready for. I can’t fill every role in his life, or meet every need. Sure, there’s a lot that I can do. But there’s also a lot that I can’t—and shouldn’t—be responsible for. Letting go of those areas of responsibility has been difficult for me, but I’ve learned that it is better to own what is mine and love Andrew in ways that are most helpful and productive.

Loving Andrew well, in my case, means encouraging my husband and lifting him up, instead of bemoaning the pains life has thrown at him and trying to fast-forward his journey to a better place. I've learned that it is most helpful and loving to remind him that he is worthy, capable, intelligent, kind, a good husband, and an all-around foxy human being. Those actions and intentional messages are infinitely more fruitful than anything else I could--and have tried to--do for him. And on top of that, it is a freeing lesson to accept internally and apply to our marriage.

2. Everyone wins when we effectively differentiate from one another.

For months, I also felt guilty because I was doing well. My social capacity, professional satisfaction, and spiritual life have all been on a steady, upward trend for the entirety of the last year. Andrew has not had a comparable path, and the differences in our independent states of being were agonizingly obvious. I was ashamed because I felt like I was failing him by being healthy, and leaving my husband behind in my healing process. 

This is a lie, of course, and Year 2 helped me to see that more clearly. In addition to being in an independently healthy season of life, which is good news for me, my husband benefits when I thrive. Because I am doing well, I have more capacity to take things off of his plate and more energy to spend loving him well. On top of that, my emergence out of a season of pain and waiting is a picture of hope for him, and gives him something to look forward to as he walks his own path. So it's okay for me to do well when Andrew isn't doing well--we both benefit from that healing, and our marriage benefits as well. 

3. Marriage is a beautiful, surprising, overflowing well of blessing and joy. 

This sounds a little gushy, I'm sure, but don't misunderstand me--I am not saying that we never fought, or itched to tear each other's hair out in Year 2. But after a dark and heavy Year 1, the blessings of marriage became much more evident to me in Year 2, and those blessings were so brilliant and surprising in contrast with our first year that they completely caught me off-guard. I believe God gave us a bonus, belated honeymoon season because of what was lost in our first year; this year, we had so many opportunities to simply delight in each other, and celebrate that we have been gifted with a profound, life-altering friendship. There is so much sweetness and celebration in the fact that we are together, and that we have the privilege of doing life together.

Year 2 has brought us many moments as evidence of God's design in our marriage--we've seen and experienced many ways that we fit into each other's lives and are equipped to support and encourage one another. Admittedly, this is a difficult interaction for me to describe...it is challenging to articulate something so undeserved, yet deeply soul-satisfying. I am blessed to be married to my best friend, and to call such a man my husband and adventure buddy for life. 

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It is a beautiful experience, to be able to write this post and celebrate a year of marriage that has been defined by joy and laughter. I am a lucky woman, with an absurdly wonderful husband.

Cheers to the silliness, the food, the laughter, and the joy!